Film Room : OTAs

Yesterday we learned that an OTA is an Organized Team Activity with a lot of rules attached – including rules that prohibit direct contact between players. So if football players can’t hit each other at a practice…what do they do? And how is it helpful to coaches?

That’s what Coach Billick explains in this video:

So, what did we get out of that?

  • Coach Billick’s interpretation of OTA is Organization Training Activities – same thing. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.
  • The offseason program is like spring football in high school and college, a collection of workouts, practices, scrimmages that build a foundation for the regular season.
  • About 1,000 plays are run throughout the course of the OTAs – roughly about the same number as run in the regular season. (Unless you are at Eagles camp with new head coach Chip Kelly, in which case you’ll be running 2,000 plays. In one day.)
  • The primary goal of OTAs is to get players used to the tempo a coach is trying to achieve. I’m tempted to make another Eagles joke here, but really, the tempo at the Eagles camp is going to be markedly different than the tempo at the Cowboys camp, or the Giants camp, or the Redskins camp. Each team has a unique rhythm to their practices and play calling, and OTAs help players get a good feel for that rhythm.
  • It’s not all about the tempo on the field. OTAs also instill off-the-field expectations – what meetings, film study, and workouts look like.
  • OTAs are also primarily for installing the system on offense, defense, and special teams. What does that mean? Let’s say a team’s defensive coordinator is going to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3. That new 4-3 defense is going to be installed (taught and learned) during OTAs. Then, during training camp, the new system will be reinstalled and cemented in place so that it’s good to go when preseason and then the regular season arrive. It doesn’t only apply to teams that are completely overhauling their schemes, though. A lot of teams will probably adjust their systems and install more ways to either cater to or stop the newly popular option offenses  in the NFL.
  • There are 3 phases to physical training in the offseason: cardiovascular training, football muscle memory training, and hitting shape (which happens during training camp when hitting is allowed).
  • The end result? Players come to training camp mentally and physically ready to play.

Makes sense, right? Thanks, Coach Billick!

What the heck is an OTA?

So I realized the other day that it’s OTA season…but no one ever really explains what an OTA is. We’re going to take care of that today!

OTAs are in full swing...but what is an OTA, anyway? Come on over and find out!

OTA stands for Organized Team Activity. While it sounds like a fancy phrase for a field trip, OTAs are actually really important to a team’s preparation for the new season. OTAs are also riddled with rules about what can and can’t be done so that offseason practices are equal for every team and conducive to player safety. Here are the basics:

  • OTAs are voluntary. But this is by no means a free pass for extra vacation time – it’s not like cutting class on the Friday before break. Aside from the physical conditioning that happens at practices, new schemes and systems are also installed during OTAs, and players can miss out on a lot of necessary training if they decide to skip out. Usually, the only reasons why a player wouldn’t attend OTAs is due to family emergency, injury, or contract holdout. (The latter is currently taking place between the Giants and wide receiver Victor Cruz.)
  • OTAs and minicamps are two different things. First and foremost, OTAs are much shorter – no more than 2 hours on the field, no more than 6 hours total (per OTA) – whereas minicamps are multi-day, all-day affairs. Minicamps are also different in that teams are allowed to have one mandatory minicamp for veterans. Teams with new coaches are also allowed an additional voluntary minicamp for veterans, and everyone is allowed as many voluntary rookie minicamps as they want, though most teams only have a single voluntary rookie minicamp.
  • OTAs occur in the final phase of the offseason program, which is a 9-week program with three phases (strength and conditioning, individual instruction and installations, OTAs and mandatory minicamp).
  • Reading the rules for what is and is not allowed during OTAs may transport you back to 5th grade when word problems lurked around every corner: “Phase Three consists of four weeks, during which a total of 10 days of “Organized Team Activities” may be conducted.  A maximum of three OTA days may be conducted per week during the first two weeks of Phase Three, and four OTA days may be conducted in the third or fourth week, with the mandatory minicamp scheduled for the other week. (In weeks with three OTA days, a Phase Two day may be conducted on the fourth day.)  Helmets may be worn, but no other pads.” (Whew – Thanks to Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk for a great explanation!)
  • No direct contact is allowed during OTAs, and players only wear helmets – no shells or pads. One-on-one drills (receivers against defensive backs, for example) are also not allowed.

Wondering when your team is scheduled for OTAs? You can check out the full list here.

Wondering how exactly players and coaches benefit from OTAs? Tune in tomorrow to be filled in by Coach Billick!